Acne can strike at any age. Although it’s more common among teenagers, and sometimes in women going through menopause, acne affects 17 million people in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Acne surfaces during times of hormonal imbalance. When glands produce more oil than normal, skin pores get clogged, allowing bacteria (and pimples) to grow.
Pimples come in many different forms and depths, including blackheads whiteheads, cysts, and nodules. To banish these troublemakers, research has long pointed to topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics like tetracycline, and oral drugs that contain vitamin A, such as isotretinoin (Accutane) which is for moderate to severe acne. Alternatively, some seek more natural treatments such oral vitamin and mineral supplements. Do natural remedies also work? And if so, which ones?
Vitamin A is a possible remedy for acne and hair, but you need to make sure you’re getting it the right way. Vitamin A oral supplement don’t work the same as topical vitamin A, according to clinicians at the University of Michigan. In fact, they caution against the supplement, as it can do more harm than good. Because the vitamin is fat-soluble, it builds up in your body, and a high intake of more than 10,000 international units (IU) can be toxic. This is especially true during pregnancy, so women who are planning on becoming pregnant should check with their doctor’s before starting any supplements.
But as a topical medication, vitamin A can help with your acne. Most topical medications chemically alter the vitamin into a retinoid which you can apply to the skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, retinoid are the most effective treatment for acne because of their ability to regenerate and heal the skin rapidly, so that you quickly have fresh skin.
Popular retinoid brands — in the order of least side effects — include Sazerac, Differin, and Accutane. You can get them only with a prescription. Pregnant women should not take retinoids. The substance also weakens your skin’s natural UV protection, so people should take care to avoid long exposure to the sun and use sunscreen.
Zinc is a mineral that can also help with acne. You can take it as an oral supplement or as a topical treatment. A recent review of the past studies on the topic found that zinc can decrease oil production in the skin, and can protect against bacterial infection and inflammation. You only need small amounts of zinc in the body. The Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 8-11 milligrams (mg). There is some evidence that a relatively safe dose of 30 mg can help treat acne.